Covering the bases: Game 58

64RiveraFinal: Yankees 4, Indians 3

FIRST: Think about this for a moment. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has not blown a save against the Indians since July 14, 2002. Actually, Rivera has not issued a single walk against a Cleveland batter since that same game more than a decade ago.

Indians relievers have walked 1,942 hitters dating back to 2003. Rivera has walked zero Indians hitters in that same time period. Zero.

Where were you on July 14, 2002? I think I was waiting tables at Chili’s in Calumet City, Ill.

On Tuesday night, the Indians may very well have seen Rivera for the last time. He plans on hanging up the ol’ spikes at season’s end after a 19-year career that is worthy of a place in the Hall of Fame. He has saved each of the first two games of this series so — chances are — he won’t be out for the ninth on Wednesday afternoon. If that is indeed is it for Rivera against the Tribe, well, on behalf of Cleveland, happy retirement.

In the time since July 14, 2002, when Bill Selby hit a walk-off grand slam against Rivera, all he has done is post a 0.66 ERA (two earned runs in 27 1/3 innings) with 19 saves, 30 strikeouts and no walks against the Indians in 26 appearances.

“Mariano’s got what, 600, or 800,000 saves right now?” Nick Swisher said with a laugh.

Sure feels like it. After Tuesday’s he’s up to 21 on the year and 629 for his career. Not too bad for an old guy.

SECOND: All of the compliments aside, Rivera did get a helping hand from home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo in the final frame. After striking out Mark Reynolds and Jason Giambi, Rivera’s first pitch to Mike Aviles sailed high and outside for a check-swing ball. Well, actually, no. Randazzo ruled it a fouled first strike.

Aviles argued at the plate and manager Terry Francona hustled out to make sure things didn’t get out of control. Two pitches later, Aviles flew out to right field and quickly made the turn to get back to Randazzo. As he ran by the ump, Aviles aired some grievances and was promptly ejected from a game that had already ended.

Aviles and Randazzo continued to jaw at one another as they exited the field, with Francona and third-base coach Brad Mills in the middle.

“It’s a situation where you’re down one and you have maybe the best closer in the history of baseball and the game, he doesn’t need any help,” Francona said. “Mike, you get emotional sometimes. I just thought that, at that point, Tony should’ve kept walking or apologized to Mike. Everybody makes mistakes. That’s a tough call. That’s a tough position to be put in when you’re facing Rivera.”

THIRD: Lefty Scott Kazmir gave the Indians a solid effort, but Cleveland was shut down by Yankees righty David Phelps for the second time this season, and trying to make a comeback late against New York’s late-inning arms is a tall task. Kazmir gave the Tribe six innings and survived for the most part despite struggling to command his fastball in stretches.

Kazmir ended with seven strikeouts and two walks in six innings, during which he allowed four runs on seven hits. The first run came via an RBI single from Ichiro Suzuki in the third and three more came — two hitters later — via a three-run homer from Mark Teixeira. That’s two homers in two games for Teixeira, who came off the disabled list five games ago.

“He was really good,” Francona said of Kazmir. “But he hung a changeup to the wrong guy. That spread out the game. That’s part of what they do, because he really battled. He had a tough time commanding his fastball tot he right-handed hitters, which has not been his M.O. so far. But he held his stuff the whole game. He had as good a breaking ball as we’ve seen, and he competed.

“I thought he was OK. He made a mistake to Teixeira, but I thought he held his stuff the entire game.”

HOME: Let’s take a second to appreciate a great effort from lefty Nick Hagadone, who has been in need of a confidence builder in a key moment. Over his past seven games, Hagadone has posted a 14.21 ERA, which has ballooned his season ERA to 7.20. In the seventh inning, Francona handed Hagadone the ball with one out, the bases loaded and some guy named Robinson Cano at the plate.

Hagadone induced an inning-ending doubleplay groundout off Cano’s bat, preserving Cleveland’s one-run deficit. The Indians did not come back in the end, but the lefty’s contribution should not go unnoticed.

“He was aggressive in to one of the best hitters in the game,” Francona said. “That was a big part of the game and he rose to the occasion.”

ON DECK:

Indians (30-28) at Yankees (33-25)
at 1:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

–JB

3 Comments

July 14, 2002: Celebrating my 11th birthday at my aunt’s place, watching the Tribe win on a walkoff home run.

Wow, finally a blog. Is there anyway we can get Castrovince back?

AC still writes columns for MLB.com and still blogs at castrovince.mlblogs.com.

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